The start of the year is a time when organizations should bring their IT priorities into sharp focus to avoid losing sight of them early on. In 2022, small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) can expect to face different flavors of the same challenges they’ve been dealing with for the last two years.
Investing in the key IT strategies for small businesses described below, is a great way to prepare for whatever the year 2022 has in store for your business, so that you can end it stronger than ever before.
1. Strengthening Cybersecurity Defenses
Log4Shell (CVE-2021-44228), the recently disclosed vulnerability in Java-based logging utility called Log4j, has reminded the whole world how little it takes for the entire global IT infrastructure and the businesses that rely on it to become vulnerable.
Immediately after information about Log4Shell started circulating on the internet, cybercriminals unpacked their tools of trade to find as many exploitable systems as possible to steal sensitive data, install backdoors, and perform other nefarious activities.
Some SMBs were unfazed by Log4Shell because of their excellent patch management, some were saved by their monitoring and intrusion detection solutions, and some discovered how costly not proactively strengthening cybersecurity defenses can be.
Regardless of how solid your cyber defenses currently are, you can’t expect them to reliably keep protecting you forever. Cybercriminals are constantly evolving their tactics, so you must keep making sound cybersecurity investments to stay one step ahead of them.
Some of the most cost-effective cybersecurity investments you can make in 2022 include, multi-factor authentication (MFA), zero trust security model, end-point protection, backup & disaster recovery, and managed security services.
In addition to the above-described controls and practices, you should strive to create a cybersecurity culture by changing your employees’ mindset and turning them from the weakest link in the cybersecurity chain into a strong layer of defense, especially against social engineering attacks like phishing.
6 Critical Cybersecurity Policies Every Organization Must Have
2. Adding Hybrid Work Capabilities
The Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2 has put many return-to-office plans on hold as employees, managers, and owners anxiously watch infection rate statistics reach new record highs.
The returning nature of COVID-19 infection outbreaks makes the old way of working seem increasingly distant, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Modern technology allows any business—regardless of its size—to add hybrid work capabilities that make it possible for employees to be just as productive when working from remote locations as when working from the office.
Hybrid work capabilities can not only enable your business to operate as usual even when all employees can’t gather in the office, but it can also be an important source of competitive advantage.
According to Future Workforce Report, the number of remote workers is expected to nearly double the pre-pandemic level by 2025, so roughly 36 million Americans could be working remotely by then. Among them might be your future accountant or the best salesperson you’ve ever hired.
When adding hybrid work capabilities, such as VPN access or desktop virtualization, make sure to always keep cybersecurity top-of-mind because cybercriminals see remote employees as easy targets.
3. Adopting Cloud Technologies
A recent report forecasts the global cloud computing market size to grow from $445.3 billion in 2021 to $947.3 billion by 2026.
“Digital business transformation has entered a more challenging and urgency-driven phase due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” the report explains. “Global giants are providing customers with cost-effective and productive digital solutions as every industry is economically hard-hit from the pandemic. The sudden shutdowns of offices, schools, and enterprises have increased the demand for cloud solutions and services.”
More and more businesses are adopting cloud technologies because they want to free themselves from the shackles of on-premises IT infrastructure, which is costly to maintain, difficult to scale, and prone to issues with reliability and security.
But there are many roads to the cloud, and they’re not all created equal. To start with, the term cloud computing encompasses many different service offerings, which can be broadly divided into the following three categories:
- Software as a Service (SaaS): the delivery of an application to the customer as a service, often on a per-user or seat pricing model.
- Platform as a Service (PaaS): provides the customer the capability to develop and deploy applications to cloud infrastructure using the programming languages, libraries, and services supported by the provider.
- Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS): provides the customer access to Virtual Servers along with the ability to provision processing, storage, memory, and other computing resources.
What’s more, you can choose between three different cloud deployment models (public, private, and hybrid cloud), each offering a unique set of advantages and disadvantages that determine its suitability. Deciding between all these options can be tricky, so it’s a good idea to find an experienced cloud migration partner.
4. Meeting Cybersecurity Compliance Requirements
As demonstrated by last year’s Colonial Pipeline ransomware attack, which impacted computerized equipment managing the pipeline and caused a widespread gasoline shortage, cybersecurity is a public issue because the impact of cybersecurity incidents can spill out far beyond the initial target.
To improve the cybersecurity posture of the public and private sectors alike, President Biden issued an executive order on cybersecurity, EO 14028, entitled Improving the Nation’s Cybersecurity.
The executive order instructs several federal government agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the Defense Department (DOD), the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), to produce new standards and requirements for cybersecurity, giving them tight deadlines to meet.
Already, the Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC) framework requires government contractors and sub-contractors to achieve a certain cybersecurity maturity level if they want to provide their services to the Department of Defense (DoD). Such contractors must implement very specific controls and, when aiming for higher cybersecurity maturity levels, complete a third-party assessment.
Some of the other existing compliance mandates organizations face include the HIPPA legislation (protects sensitive patient information), PCI DSS (security standard that companies must meet if they are to process cardholder data), CCPA (California’s consumer privacy and security law), and GDPR (protects the privacy of EU citizens—even outside of the EU).
It’s clear that compliance is an increasingly important issue that more and more SMBs have to pay attention to if they want to avoid fines and penalties, maintain good reputation, and keep serving their customers.
But navigating the complexities of cybersecurity compliance requirements can be a huge undertaking for SMBs with limited resources and even more limited cybersecurity experience, which is where providers of managed cybersecurity services can come in with a helping hand.
5. Unlocking Data-Driven Insights
To remain on the right track and make the wisest business decisions possible, businesses need accurate data and the ability to extract insights from it.
The good news is that access to a wealth of data goes hand in hand with digital transformation—extracting insights from data is the difficult part.
Most SMBs can’t afford to hire a data analytics expert or two, so their next best option are easy-to-use data analytics software solutions like Microsoft Power BI.
With Microsoft Power BI, even SMBs can unify multiple sources of data and turn them into interactive, immersive dashboards and reports that provide actionable insights to support decision-making processes.
Best of all, Microsoft Power BI is included in the Microsoft 365 E5 plan, which combines best-in-class productivity apps with advanced security, compliance, voice, and analytical capabilities, so many businesses already have access to it at no additional cost.
Summary for 2022 IT Priorities
Your IT priorities should always reflect your business objectives, but there are some key areas that you can’t afford to overlook in 2022, including cybersecurity, remote work readiness, cloud computing, compliance, and data-driven insights.
A capable managed IT services provider can help you choose the right technologies based on your needs, current capabilities, and budget. The same provider can then take care of their implementation and ongoing management, making it easy for you to remain dedicated to your business.